The lone lawmaker of an ally, a former royal and many first-time ministers was sworn into the new Rajasthan government as the ruling Congress plans to come for the 2019 national election battle.
Twenty-three ministers took oath in Jaipur, one week after Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his deputy Sachin Pilot took charge following the Congress’ return to power in the desert state.
The Congress, which won 99 seats, got the majority-mark along with a single lawmaker of Ajit Singh’s Rashtriya Lok Dal, Subhash Garg; he has been given cabinet rank as the Congress tries to keep allies on board.
The cabinet, crafted in consultation with Congress president Rahul Gandhi, is looked to balance the old and new guard in the Congress. Some former ministers have been included. No first-time lawmaker is in the government.
Eighteen in the new government are first-time ministers. Congress leaders say there are two Rajputs, two Vaishyas or members of the business community, one Muslim, four Jats, three Scheduled Tribes, four Scheduled Castes, three members Other Backward Classes and one Gujjar.
There is one woman, Mamta Bhupesh, who was sworn in as Minister of State.
The former royal from Bharatpur, Maharaja Vishwendra Singh, has also been comprised in the cabinet.
Senior ministers from the former Ashok Gehlot cabinet, like CP Joshi, Bharat Singh and former speaker Dipendra Singh, have been kept out of the cabinet, a move which has raised eyebrows.
Rajasthan can have a whole of 30 ministers, including the chief minister. Some vacancies will be filled later, say, leaders.
The Congress won the BJP-ruled states of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in current elections but by a wafer-thin majority in the two bigger states.
With an eye on the national election due by May, the party has kept allies and caste-equations in mind.
The Congress began its term in the states by announcing a big populist step – loan waivers for farmers.